Measuring diabetes guideline adherence with claims data: systematic construction of indicators and related challenges

BMJ Open. 2019 Apr 24;9(4):e027138. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-027138.


Objectives: Indicators of guideline adherence are frequently used to examine the appropriateness of healthcare services. Only some potential indicators are actually usable for research with routine administrative claims data, potentially leading to a biased selection of research questions. This study aimed at developing a systematic approach to extract potential indicators from clinical practice guidelines (CPG), evaluate their feasibility for research with claims data and assess how the extracted set reflected different types of healthcare services. Diabetes mellitus (DM), Swiss national guidelines and health insurance claims data were analysed as a model case.

Methods: CPG for diabetes patients were retrieved from the Swiss Endocrinology and Diabetes Society website. Recommendation statements involving a specific healthcare intervention for a defined patient population were translated into indicators of guideline adherence. Indicators were classified according to disease stage and healthcare service type. We assessed for all indicators whether they could be analysed with Swiss mandatory health insurance administrative claims data.

Results: A total of 93 indicators were derived from 15 CPG, representing all sectors of diabetes care. For 63 indicators, the target population could not be identified using claims data only. For 67 indicators, the intervention could not be identified. Nine (10%) of all indicators were feasible for research with claims data (three addressed gestational diabetes and screening, five screening for complications and one glucose measurement). Some types of healthcare services, eg, management of risk factors, treatment of the disease and secondary prevention, lacked corresponding indicators feasible for research.

Conclusions: Our systematic approach could identify a number of indicators of healthcare service utilisation, feasible for DM research with Swiss claims data. Some areas of healthcare were covered less well. The approach could be applied to other diseases and countries, helping to identify the potential bias in the selection of indicators and optimise research.

Keywords: Switzerland; claims data; general diabetes; quality in healthcare.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care / standards*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / therapy*
  • Guideline Adherence*
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Primary Health Care / standards*
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care / methods
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care / standards
  • Quality Indicators, Health Care / standards*
  • Switzerland